by Waseem Hussain

India: Where innovation is magic

Mar 26, 20154 mins

India and innovation have been an unhappy couple for a long time. Now game changers are reinventing India's IT industry with innovation and professionalism.

Last week Hanover, Germany was the epicenter of the world’s IT industry when CeBit opened its doors. Among the many hosted lunches and cocktails ICTswitzerland‘s event was — typically Swiss — inconspicuous, albeit significant. Even for this blog’s focal point: India.

In his welcome note, Ruedi Noser, president of ICTswitzerland and member of the Swiss National Council, rightly argued that his country’s IT industry has but one choice to compete in the world: innovation. Mr Noser’s statement was a determined response to companies lamenting impeding exports due to the Swiss franc’s strength.

Technology solutions originating in Switzerland are expensive but famed for their quality and sobriety. Those coming from India are cheap but usually tagged with faults and somewhat cluttered graphical user interfaces. There might be a shakeup in the offing.

Swiss reason, Indian adoption

On my way to the Swiss luncheon I came across an almost empty exhibition space. On the makeshift floor stood four tables or so, a small number of roll-ups and a few gentlemen from India hoping for attention. Their unassuming attitude wouldn’t have been necessary. After all, what they were showing on their practically unnoticed stall was nothing short of remarkable.

I met Jagdeep Raju of Intellileap Solutions, an award-winning business from Bangalore. Simply put, Jagdeep’s company has created a solution where you can not only design and depict your business processes but also create them, include all collateral, control flow of communication and take corrective measures instantly. What impressed me is the simple and dry approach to business engineering. It has the potential to challenge any consultant’s very expensive slide deck.

The same is true for Global Software Solutions (GSS) based in Chennai, awarded for their innovations. Praveen Sekar of GSS explained to me OASIS, a drag and drop mechanism to wire solutions. Imagine organizations where business and IT actually meet to jointly develop and deploy applications, and that in short time. Sure, anyone can claim that. But what makes GSS different is that they speak their customers’ language; a business essential you sometimes miss when dealing with IT companies in India!

Or take Zesscom in Mumbai. They not only deliver bespoke Web and mobile developments, they just recently launched Drinksquare, a location-based app for bars, pubs, restaurants and cafés that is becoming more and more popular by the day. It adds new excitement and fun for visitors while improving the drink outlets’ cash management.

NITSAN Technologies in Bhavnagar, a small city just an hour’s flight from Mumbai, doesn’t offer anything really special with its offshore Web solutions. But it does that in a refreshingly professional, loyal and committed fashion. And the company delivers on each of its promises. This in itself is innovative by Indian standards. What’s more, under the NITSAN team has solved problems in Typo3 several times that peers in Switzerland, Germany and the United States were either not able or were unwilling to even consider.

Yoga in IT

There are many examples more, all which amalgamate good contemporary practices and the ancient Indian concept of “Jugaar.”

These new generation businesses no longer remind you of a notoriously unreliable way that told you “OK, no problem” but wouldn’t deliver. Their minds are unleashed and do things in a way you would see at any respected service provider near you. Their price tags are still lower than those in mature economies but no longer at a cheap sweat shop’s level.

As for Jugaar, this is an optimistic, meandering mindset that lets you always see a glass that is already half full, not half empty. It is quite interesting to examine this mindset and contrast it with the one prevalent in societies in western Europe and North America.

Interestingly, the word Jugaar stems from a word popularly known in the west: yoga. In Vedic mythology, which is a key source of India’s culture and mentality, a person who has the ability to create optimal conditions based on a flexible way of thinking and behaving is called a Yogi (male) or Yogini (female), but also Yogaru or Jugaru. These words mean yoga master, but also magician.

Consequently, when people in India refer to innovation, they have a specific concept of magic deep inside their minds. No doubt, many businesses in the rich and highly industrialized part of the world could do with some magic!